Description of Major Muslim Communities in India – Ahbans, Bachgoti, and Bisen

This is my second post looking at some important Muslim communities in India. All the communities looked are members of the Khanzada community. The Khanzada or Khan Zadeh are a community of Muslim Rajputs found in the Awadh region of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India.

The Khanzada comprise a large numbered of dispersed intermarrying clans. These exogamous groups are made up of myriad landholding patrilineages of varying genealogical depth, ritual, and social status called biradaries or brotherhoods scattered in the various districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh. The biradari, or lineage is one of the principal point of reference for the Khanzadas, and all biradaris claim descent from a common ancestor. Often biradaris inhabit a cluster of villages called chaurasis (84 villages), chatisis (36 villages) and chabisis (26 villages). Important biradaris include the Bachgoti, Bais, Bhale Sultan, Bisen, Bhatti, Chauhan, Chandel, Gautam, Sombansi and Panwar.

The sense of belonging to the Rajput community remains strong, with the Khanzada still strongly identifying themselves with the wider Rajput community of Awadh, and often refer to themselves as simply Rajput. This is shown by the persistence in their marriages of Rajput customs, like bursting of fire crackers and sending specially made laddoos to biradati members. Many members of the community continue to serve in the armed forces of India, an activity traditionally associated with the Rajputs. However, like other Indian Muslims, there is growing movement towards orthodoxy, with many of their villages containing madrasas.

I also wish to add a quick word about the term Taluqdar, which appears quite a bit in this post. Taluqdar in Persian literally means a holder of a Taluq, and were often appointed during the period of Mughal rule in India. A Taluq was district usually comprising over 84 villages and a central town. The Talukdar was required to collect taxes, maintain law and order, and provide military supplies/manpower to the provincial government (similar to the role of feudal lords in Europe). In most cases the Talukdars were entitled to keep one tenth of the collected revenue. However, some privileged Talukdars were entitled to one quarter and hence were called Chaudhry, which literally means owner of the fourth part. As Mughal authority weakened, the taluqdar became independent rulers, only paying lip service to the Nawabs or rulers of Awadh. The khanzada families made a large part of the taluqdari class in Awadh. This semi-independent status ended when Awadh was annexed by the British in 1856.



The Ahbans Khanzada are Muslim converts from the Ahbans clan of Rajputs, who are found mainly in the Awadh region.

The name of this clan is derived from the Sanskrit word ahi which means a snake, and bans meaning clan. They claim to be one of the earliest Rajput settlers in the Awadh region. According to their tribal traditions, they are descended from two brothers, who belonged to the Chavda clan who found in Gujarat. The two brothers were Gopi and Sopi, and who are said to have come from Anhalwarra Patan in what is now Gujarat. They went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Gaya around, around the first century AD. On their return, the brothers settled in Gopamau and Bhurwara in Lakhimpur Kheri District. Ahbans became effective rulers of Kheri during the period of the Mughal Emperor Humayun, a position maintained until the arrival of the British in the 19th Century.
Groups of Ahbans started to convert to Islam during the rule of Bahlol Lodhi, the Sultan of Delhi, who appointed his nephew Mohammed Farman Ali, also known as Kalapahar, as governor of Bahraich. This Kalapahar is said to have induced the conversion of the Ahbans ranas of Lakhimpur Kheri to Islam. The Ahbans Khanzada provided the taluqdar families of Kotwara, Agar Buzurg, Chauratia, Kukra, Jalalpur, Raipur and Gola.


The first Ahbans to have converted to Islam was said to be a Rajah Mul Sah, who is said to have then gone to Delhi, the capital of the Islamic Sultanate. From him descended two brothers, Fateh Khan and Baz Khan, from whom most of the present day Ahbans Khanzada claim descent. Baz Khan had twelve sons, of whom eight had no issues, while from the two eldest, Sangi Khan and Turbat Khan are the ancestors of the taluqdar families of Kotwara, Jalalpur and Raipur, and the zamindar families of Bhurwara, Ghursi, and Amethi.

The Jalalpur family were descended from Tarbat Khan, who had three sons, the eldest being Mohammad Hasan Khan. These estate was one of the largest in Lakhimpur Kheri District, and consisted of thirteen villages. From the second son of Tarbat Khan came the taluqdar family of Kotwara. This estate eventually passed into the ownership of a Sayyid family. The final taluqdar estate was Raipur, whose taluqdar claimed descent from Bahudur Khan, a younger son of Baz Khan.


It is worth pointing out that most Ahbans were small to medium farmers, obviously excluding the taluqdar families. This especially the case of the Ahbans found in Bagarmau in Hardoi District.
Sectarian Affiliation
While the taluqdar families are Ithna Ashri Shia, most farming families belong to the Sunni sect.


Found mainly in Kheri, but a second cluster of settlements found in Bargarmau in Hardoi.


The next community I will look at are the Bachgoti, who were the first clan to acquire the name Khanzada.

The Bachgoti Khanzada claim descent from Tilok Chand, a Bachgoti Rajput chieftain, who was a contemporary of the Mughal Emperor Babar. Tilok Chand is said to have been captured by the Emperor, after an unsecusful rebellion, and given the option to convert to Islam, or face long incarceration. He chose the former option, and took the new name Tatar Khan. His sons, Barid Khan and Jalal Khan adopted the name the khanzada, which literally means a son of a khan. Hasan Khan, a son of Barid Khan, is said to have founded the town of Hasanpur, which was the headquarters of the tribe. The Bachgoti Khanzada were substantial landowners in eastern Uttar Pradesh, and provided the taluqdar families of Hasanpur, Maniarpur and Gangeo.

The Bachgoti Khanzada are found mainly in the districts of Faizabad and Sultanpur. They are Sunni Muslims, except the taluqdar families, but incorporate many folk beliefs. The Bachgoti speak both Awadhi and Urdu. They were at one time substantial landowners, but with the carrying out of land reform by the government of India after independence in 1947, they lost many of their larger estates.


Moving on to the Bisen, who are largest in terms of numbers among the Khanzada community. There are in fact several distinct communities of Bisen Khanzada scattered throughout eastern Uttar Pradesh. Each has a different traditions as to its conversion to Islam. Perhaps the most famous Bisen Khanzada family is said of the taluqdars of Usmanpur in Barabanki District. This estate was founded by one Kaunsal Singh (also known as Raja Khushhal Singh), who obtained an estate as a reward for military service under the Mughal Emperor Humayun. One of his sons Lakhan Singh converted to Islam, and took the name Lakhu Khan. The estate of Usmanpur was founded by Ghanzafar Khan, who was confirmed ownership of Usmanpur and neighbouring villages by the Nawabs of Awadh.

In addition to the Rajah of Usmanpur, prominent Bisen families are also found in Balrampur District, where the zamindars of Mahua and Burhapara were substantial landowners.

The Bisen are found in the districts of Basti, Azamgarh, Sitapur, Faizabad, Barabanki, Sultanpur and Balrampur. They are generally Sunni, and speak Awadhi and Urdu.


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